Image: Laura Bush and a child at Easter Egg Roll
Mandel Ngan  /  AFP - Getty Images
First Lady Laura Bush holds 14-month old Nicola during the annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn, Monday.
updated 4/17/2006 11:50:42 AM ET 2006-04-17T15:50:42

Thousands of children braved chilly rain Monday on the South Lawn of the White House, rolling colored eggs across soggy grass as part of the annual celebration that dates back to the 19th century.

More than 10,000 people were expected throughout the day, including hundreds of gay and lesbian parents who lined up for first-come-first-served entrance tickets over the weekend.

“The message is that gay and lesbian families are everywhere in this country,” said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Pride Coalition.

Bundled in raincoats, President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush kicked off this year’s egg roll before a cheering crowd. The president blew the whistle to start the race, a scramble in which children use big spoons to push the eggs.

“Welcome to this happiest of traditions at the White House,” Laura Bush told the crowd. “In Washington, we know that spring has arrived when the White House lawn is filled with children for the Easter Egg Hunt.”

Easter Bunny makes appearance
The Bushes posed for pictures with families, which were restricted to White House staff in the morning hours.

Thousands of eggs were dyed in pastel colors for the egg roll races, as well as for an egg hunt. Other eggs were available for children to color, as people dressed up as characters including the Easter Bunny strolled around the South Lawn.

The White House egg roll has been a tradition since the mid-19th century. The celebration took place on the Capitol grounds until 1878, when it was moved to the White House by Lucy Hayes, wife of President Rutherford Hayes.

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